1902 Encyclopedia > Richard Whately

Richard Whately
English scholar and churchman
(1787-1863)




RICHARD WHATELY (1787-1863), archbishop of Dublin, was born in London on 1st February 1787. He was the youngest of the nine children of the Rev. Joseph Whately of Nonsuch Park, Surrey. After attending a pri-vate school near Bristol (where his father was prebendary), he went to Oxford in 1805 and entered Oriel College, then the most distinguished in the university. Copleston, afterwards bishop of Llandaff, was a college tutor when Whately entered, and had a marked influence upon the younger man. In their long walks together round Oxford they discussed and worked out much that was afterwards embodied in Whately's Logic. Whately took a double second-class in honours in 1808, afterwards gaining the prize for the English essay, and in 1811 he was elected fellow of Oriel. He continued to reside at Oxford as a private tutor, and in 1814 took holy orders. The Oriel common-room at that time was full of intellectual life, destined to discharge itself in very varied channels. Be-sides Copleston and Whately, Davison, Arnold, Keble, and Hawkins were among the fellows, and Newman and Pusey were added about the time of Whately's leaving Oxford. Newman has put on record in his Apologia his indebted-ness to Whately, who, he says, opened his mind and taught him to think and to use his reason. They soon became separated ; but between Arnold and Whately there was a warm friendship till the death of the former. It was at this time that Whately wrote his celebrated tract, Historic Doubts relative to Napoleon Bonaparte, a very clever jeu d'esprit directed against excessive scepticism as applied to the Gospel history. In 1820 Whately made the acquaint-ance of Elizabeth Pope, to whom he was married in July of the following year. After his marriage he first settled in Oxford, where he continued to take pupils, and in 1822 he was appointed Bampton lecturer. The lectures, On the Use and Abuse of Party Spirit in Matters of Religion, were published in the same year, and were followed by a volume of Sermons in 1823. In August 1823 he removed to Halesworth in Suffolk, a country living to which he had been presented. Here two years were spent in vigorous parish work; but the damp climate nearly proved fatal to Mrs Whately, and, when he was appointed in 1825 to the principalship of St Alban Hall, he returned with his family to Oxford. In the same year he took the degree of doctor of divinity. At St Alban Hall Whately found much to reform, and he left it a different place. In 1825 he published a series of Essays on Some of the Peculiarities of the Christian Religion, followed in 1828 by a second series On Some of the Difficulties in the Writings of St Paul, and in 1830 by a third On the Errors of Romanism traced to their Origin in Human Nature. He also published in 1829 a volume of his Halesworth sermons, under the title A View of the Scripture Revelations concerning a Future

State. It was while he was at St Alban Hall (1826) that the work appeared which is perhaps most closely associ-ated with his name,—his treatise on Logic, originally con-tributed to the Encyclopedia Metropolitana. By this work, which gave a great impetus to the study of logic not only in Oxford but throughout Great Britain, Whately has been known to generation after generation of students; and, though it is no longer so much in use, the qualities of the book make much of it as admirable now as when it was written. Whately swept the webs of scholasticism from the subject, and raised the study to a new level. A similar treatise on Rhetoric, also contributed to the Ency-clopedia, appeared in 1828. In 1829 Whately was elected to the professorship of political economy at Oxford in succession to Senior. In writing to a friend he gives the following characteristic reason for accepting the appoint-ment : "It seems to me that before long political econo-mists of soma sort will govern the world. Now the anti-Christians are striving hard to have this science to themselves, and to interweave it with their notions ; and, if these efforts are not met, the rising generation will be f,t the mercy of these men." It was a subject admirably suited to his lucid, practical intellect; but his tenure of office was cut short by his appointment to the archbishopric of Dublin in 1831. He published only one course of Introductory Lectures (1831), in which he sought to establish the true scope of the science; but one of his first acts on going to Dublin was to endow a chair of political economy in Trinity College out of his private purse. Whately's appointment by Lord Grey to the see of Dublin came as a great surprise to everybody, for though a decided Liberal Whately had from the beginning stood aloof from all political parties, and ecclesiastically his position was that of an Ishmaelite fighting for his own hand. The Evangelicals regarded him as a dangerous latitudinarian on the ground of his views on Catholic emancipation, the Sabbath question, the doctrine of election, and certain quasi-Sabellian opinions he was supposed to hold about the character and attributes of Christ, while his view of the church was diametrically opposed to that of the High Church party, and from the beginning he was the deter-mined opponent of what was afterwards called the Trac-tarian movement. The appointment was challenged in the House of Lords, but without success. In Ireland it was immensely unpopular among the Protestants, both for the reasons just mentioned and as being the appoint-ment of an Englishman and a Whig. Whately's blunt outspokenness and his "want of conciliating manners," which even his friends admit, prevented him from ever completely eradicating these prejudices; and the amount of opposition he met with from his own clergy would have daunted a man less resolute than the new archbishop in the performance of what he conceived to be his duty. He ran counter to their most cherished prejudices from the first by connecting himself prominently with the attempt to establish a national and unsectarian system of educa-tion. He enforced strict discipline in his diocese, where it had been long unknown; and he published an un-answerable, and all the more unpalatable, statement of his views on the Sabbath (Thoughts on the Sabbath, 1832). The archbishopric of Dublin at that time—just after the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act, and in the midst of a general refusal to pay tithes—was anything but a bed of roses. Whately spoke of his appointment as "a call to the helm of a crazy ship in a storm," and one which nothing but an overpowering sense of duty could have in-duced him to accept. He took a small country place at Redesdale, four miles out of Dublin, where he could enjoy his favourite relaxation of gardening. Here his life was one of indefatigable industry. Questions of tithes, reform of the Irish Church, reform of the Irish Poor Laws, and, in particular, the organization of national education occu-pied much of his time. But he found leisure for the dis-cussion of other public questions, for example, the subject of transportation and the general question of secondary punishments, in which he was strongly interested and on which he repeatedly published. In 1837 he wrote his well-known handbook of Christian Evidences, which was translated during his lifetime into more than a dozen languages. At a later period he also wrote, in a similar form, Easy Lessons on Reasoning, on Morals, on Mind, and on the British Constitution. He attached much im-portance himself to these unpretending but useful books. Among other works may be mentioned Charges and Tracts (1836), Essays on some of the Dangers to Christian Faith (1839), The Kingdom of Christ (1841). He also edited Bacon's Essays, Paley's Evidences, and Paley's Moral Philosophy. His cherished scheme of unsectarian religious instruction for Protestants and Catholics alike was carried out for a number of years with a measure of success, a selection of Scripture lessons and of Christian evidences by the archbishop himself being actually used in the model schools. But in 1852 the scheme broke down through the opposition of the new Catholic archbishop of Dublin, and Whately felt himself constrained to withdraw from the Education Board. This was felt by him as a grievous disappointment. From the beginning Whately was a keen-sighted observer of the condition of Ireland question, and gave much offence by openly supporting the state endowment of the Catholic clergy as a measure of justice. During the terrible years of 1846 and 1847 the archbishop and his family we^e unwearied in their efforts to alleviate the miseries of the people. Whately's private beneficence was not confined, however, to this period. Though so rigid a political economist that he could boast of never having given a penny to a beggar, his charities were princely, and oftenest bestowed without the know-ledge of his nearest friends. From 1856 onwards symptoms of decline began to manifest themselves in a paralytic affection of the left side, which kept his arm in a constant tremor. In 1860 he lost his wife and a much-loved daughter. Still he continued the active discharge of his public duties till the summer of 1863, when he was pro-strated by an ulcer in the leg, and after several months of acute suffering he died on 8th October 1863. In the fol-lowing year his daughter published Miscellaneous Remains from his commonplace book and in 1866 his Life and Correspondence in two volumes. The loosely compiled Anecdotal Memoirs of Archbishop Whately, by W. J. Fitz-patrick (1864), may be used (with discretion) as enliven-ing Miss Whately's picture of her father.
Few eminent men have had more anecdotes and wdtty sayings attributed to them than Whately. He was a great talker, much addicted in early life to argument, in which he used others as in-struments on which to hammer out his own views, and as he ad-vanced in life much given to didactic monologue. But this didactic tendency was accompanied almost to the last by an intensely youthful delight in logic-chopping. At his monthly dinners to-his clergy the archbishop would indulge even to an undignified extent in a species of logical horse-play. To this were added a keen wit, whose sharp edge often inflicted wounds never deliberately intended by the speaker, and a wholly uncontrollable love of pun-ning. Whately often offended people by the extreme uneonvention-ality of his manners. When at Oxford his white hat, rough white coat, and huge white dog earned for him the sobriquet of the White Bear, and he outraged the conventions of the place by ex-hibiting the exploits of his climbing dog in Christchurch Meadow. This free and easy manner clung to him in later life and accom-panied him into the Dublin drawing-rooms, where it was often exaggerated by absence of mind. His fondness for dogs and animals generally was a passion through life, and he was also very fond of children, who, with their usual discrimination, gave him their confidence in return. He was an adept in various savage sports more especially in throwing the boomerang. o

Whately was a man loved and reverenced by a narrow circle,
hated, or at least distrusted, by a much larger number. This was
largely owing to his own intellectual characteristics ; for, with a
remarkably fair and lucid mind, his sympathies were narrow, and
by his blunt outspokenness on points of difference he alienated
many. With no mystical fibre in his own constitution, the Trac-
tarian movement was incomprehensible to him, and was the object
of his bitter dislike and contempt. The doctrines of the Low
Church party seemed to him to be almost equally tinged with
superstition. In short, it is admitted even by his admirers that
he had a tendency to depreciate those minds which could not rest
content wdth his own " common-sense " view of Christianity. See-
ing so clearly himself, he could not believe that there might be
things which he could not see. Though a great logician, there was
nothing philosophical or speculative about his mind, and he took
a practical, almost business-like view of Christianity, which seemed
to High Churchmen and Evangelicals alike little better than
Rationalism. In this they did Whately less than justice, for his
belief in Christianity as understood by himself was thoroughly
genuine, and his religion was to him a real thing. But he may
be said to have continued into our own times the typical Chris-
tianity of the 18th century—the Christianity of the theologians
who went out to fight the Rationalists with their own weapons.
It is to Whately essentially a belief in certain matters of fact, to
be accepted or rejected after an examination of "evidences."
Hence his endeavour always is to convince the logical faculty, and
his Christianity inevitably appears as a thing of the intellect rather
than of the heart. Whately himself was well aware that he was out
of harmony with the general tendency of his time, and even Broad
Church theology has in general proceeded since upon other lines
than his. Nevertheless, though in no sense a fruitful or suggestive
mind, his clear'and massive intellect inspired general respect, and
his books well repay reading by the shrewdness of their observa-
tion, the acuteness of the reasoning, the faculty of telling illustra-
tion, and the uniform excellence of style. Whately's qualities are
exhibited at their best in his Logic, which is, as it were, the
quintessence of the views which he afterwards applied to different
subjects. He has written nothing better than the luminous Ap-
pendix to this work on "Ambiguous Terms." (A. SE.)








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